FAQ: International Student Housing in the US

The decision to study abroad comes with much excitement but assuredly, with many uncertainties as well. The moment you receive your acceptance letter a rush of emotion may take over as you’re set to spend the next year or more studying at your dream destination!

But along with the excitement of your upcoming move, we’re sure you have a few questions on logistics that coincide with your transition not only to a new university, but to a new country. Of those questions, the question of “where am I going to live?” is at the top of the list.

That’s why we’ve partnered with LoftSmart, the US’s leading source for student housing, to come together and help make your move a seamless and delightful process. To begin, check out Flywire and LoftSmart’s list of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received from international students regarding the student housing industry.

Note: Though the FAQ’s below focus solely on college housing in the US, many of the same terms and policies are reflected across countries worldwide.

What is a lease?
A lease is the contract signed by you and your US apartment complex detailing the cost of rent, how long you’ll be renting, as well as additional contract terms.

What documents will I need when leasing an apartment?
Required documentation for international students differs from property to property, but below is a comprehensive list of documentation that your property manager may ask for you to provide prior to move in.

  • Passport or Visa
  • Verification of your Acceptance to the University
  • Completed I-20 Form
  • Previous Pay Stubs or Additional Income Verification

What is a guarantor?
A guarantor is a third party (traditionally a parent or guardian) who provides security on a signed lease based on their ability to financially afford the lease value.

Do I need a guarantor to sign a lease in the US?
Generally, a guarantor is needed to sign a lease in the US. However, if you are an international student, it is common that the complex will waive the guarantor on your lease and ask that you instead pay a higher deposit fee upfront.

If an alternative method for having a guarantor is not available, does my guarantor have to be a US resident?
In most cases when a guarantor is required, the guarantor must must be a US Citizen. Traditionally, this makes the application process fairly difficult for international students. However, your dedicated personal concierge will work with you on finding a viable guarantor so that you can complete your application and sign your lease seamlessly.

How do security deposits work?
It’s very common that when you sign your lease, a security deposit will be included. Most deposits are around a half of the first month’s rent, but often times less. The deposit is used to cover potential damages (like paint chips, malfunctioned appliances, etc) that will be assessed once you move out.

Do most apartments charge for utilities?
Utilities are handled differently across apartment complexes, but for the most part, there are two structures that will be established in your lease. The first structure is typically with a ‘utility cap’. This means that the utility costs (e.g. refrigeration, electricity, heating, etc) are included in your rent with the ‘cap’ being a limit to the amount of utilities you can use. The majority of residents typically do not have any issues staying within the cap, barring extreme electricity usage. The other option is through a more traditional utility payment structure. In this format, you’ll pay based on usage that month. In these situations, you can typically ask the property manager for the month-to-month utility charges of other residents.

What are fully furnished apartments?
Many international students enter their new university without the initial furniture necessities to move into their new apartment. A fully furnished apartment would likely be the best option in this situation. These options are available at select complexes for an extra fee and generally include beds, dressers, a desk, etc.

What if I don’t have a roommate?
Many apartment complexes have amazing roommate matching systems and will set you up with a roommate before move-in. This process typically consists of a brief survey to match you and your potential roommate based on your major, hobbies, habits and more.

Are there any leases shorter than 1 year?
Depending on the market and school you’re in, you’ll likely find very few student housing apartments that offer leases shorter than a year. You’re welcomed to discuss with the property manager to see what options are available as a few may be flexible depending on their occupancy rate, or reach out to your personal concierge beforehand for the best options available.

Are there buses to get to and from campus?
Most major universities listed offer free shuttles to their students for getting around campus and the most popular spots around town. Be sure to check in on your school’s shuttle website to check route details and see if the bus meets at your complex.

How do you find out about the surrounding neighborhood/community?
The best resource can actually be found through LoftSmart! Once on
their site, go to your school’s page on the site and view our helpful neighborhood guides that will tell you all about the neighborhood and its perks or downsides.

Have a few more questions on student housing in the US? The team at LoftSmart offers tons of great resources on their site that is sure to help with your move to the US.

Ready to find your perfect place? Sign up for LoftSmart today!

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